So I originally intended this video to be about the way I once organized my whole submission plan for literary magazines. I had this fancy pants spreadsheet characterizing my every submission move. The spreadsheet was color-coded. It had formulas. There were calculations. It was brilliant.
Or so I used to think. But a few minutes into making my latest video, I realized how much I have changed over the years. Partly this happened out of necessity. I was single back then. I didn’t have kids. I had the time and space to totally ritualize and fetishize the submission process while still having time to write and read and watch snooty foreign films and everything else.
But there’s more to it than that. I think my change has also come because I’ve grown as a writer. At least I’ve grown enough to see how much more I should have been focusing on the writing and not as much on selling myself as a writer. We writers (permit me to arrogantly lump you in with me…) are so compelled to obsess over the accolades we think we deserve before fully maturing our writing chops. And so this submission spreadsheet of mine looks a bit silly at this point. It’s not that I think writers shouldn’t worry about submitting their work. Of course that’s an essential part of the process and I constantly push other writers to submit their work more often. But I also think it is seductively easy to get hung up on this part of the process – to get hung up on why story X hasn’t been published or why magazine Y won’t publish any of my damn writing. (Amusing unrelated anecdote: I submitted so many bad stories to Zyzzyva that someone there asked me to please stop sending them stories…)
In the end, this video turned into a talk about the importance of writing. And about writing a lot. Without doing a lick of research (or even bothering to read the book), I swiped Malcolm Gladwell’s notion from Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to master a particular craft. (Don’t quote me on this!) I just love the idea of that number because it is a damn big number. And I think it is roughly true. It takes a long time for most of us mortals to get good at writing.
Before you start to think I’m getting all preachy about it, I just want you to know that this is more of a reminder to myself to shut up and write than anything else. I’ve recently been getting a bit wrapped up in a lot of issues related to my upcoming novel. Even worse: in issues that I have little or no control over. And my writing shut down for a while. And so now I’m reminding myself to write more. Check it out:
What do you think about this idea? Do you buy the 10,000-hour rule? Do you ever get wrapped up in the submission and marketing part of things and forget about the writing?